The 21 Precepts
Fulfill Your Obligations



In going through life, one inevitably incurs obligations. Factually, one is born with certain obligations and they tend to accumulate thereafter. It is no novel or new idea that one owes his parents a debt for bringing one into the world, for raising one. It is a credit to parents that they don’t push it any harder than they do. But it is an obligation, nevertheless: even the child feels it. And as life continues to run its course, one accumulates other obligations—to other persons, to friends, to society and even the world.

It is an extreme disservice to a person not to permit him to satisfy or pay off his obligations. No small part of the “revolt of childhood” is caused by others refusing to accept the only “coins” a baby or child or youth has with which to discharge the “weight of obligation”: the baby’s smiles, the child’s fumbling efforts to help, the youth’s possible advice or just the effort to be a good son or a good daughter commonly pass unrecognized, unaccepted; they can be ill-aimed, often ill-planned; they fade quickly. Such efforts, when they fail to discharge the enormity of the debt, can be replaced with any number of mechanisms or rationalizations: “one doesn’t really owe anything,” “I was owed it all in the first place,” “I didn’t ask to be born,” “my parents or guardians are no good,” and “life isn’t worth living anyway,” to name a few. And yet the obligations continue to pile up.

The “weight of obligation” can be a crushing burden if one can see no way to discharge it. It can bring about all manner of individual or social disorders. When it cannot be discharged, those who are owed, often unwittingly, find themselves targets for the most unlooked-for reactions.

One can help a person who finds himself in the dilemma of unpaid obligations and debt by simply going over with him or her all the obligations they have incurred and have not fulfilled—moral, social and financial—and work out some way to discharge all of those the person feels are still owed.

One should accept the efforts of a child or an adult to pay off non-financial obligations they feel they may owe: one should help bring about some mutually agreeable solution to the discharge of financial ones.

Discourage a person from incurring more obligations than it is possible for him or her to actually discharge or repay.

The way to happiness is
very hard to travel when one
is burdened with the weight of obligations
which one is owed or which he
has not discharged.

  1. 1. obligation: the state, fact or condition of being indebted to another for a special service or favor received; a duty, contract, promise or any other social, moral or legal requirement that binds one to follow or avoid a certain course of action; the sense of owing another.

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